Eber: “A choice not an echo” for Public school education

Congressman Tom McClintock likes to say “what makes Ford great is General Motors.”  The idea of competition allows the consumer, in this case of education, the choice of programs that work for them, not the masses.  Education is mass producer, but the consumer is an individual.

“Supporters of Rocketship, who specializes in taking kids from low income households and turns them into top flight students in five years,  provides a welcome alternative to the often failing traditional  approach to education as practiced in the Golden State. There is so much excitement about Rocketship in Antioch that it already has a waiting list of families trying to get their children enrolled in the school.

Rocketship Public Schools, which has branches throughout California, Wisconsin, Tennessee, and Washington D.C., places its emphasis on students learning English, Math, and Science first.  Physical education and recess time are limited with their aggressive academic agenda.  Such a rigorous schedule often means students eating their lunch in the classroom and a school day which is a couple hours longer than traditional educational models.”

While government schools throw money at their facilities, charter schools, like Rocketship, throw hard work, challenging curriculum, discipline (no restorative justice at Rocketship or other charter schools).  Give minorities and those in low income households and opportunity for a great education—one that is best for the child, not the masses.

No Rocketship

“A choice not an echo” for Public school education By Richard Eber

Richard Eber, California Political News and Views,  3/1/18

February 23rd was a joyous occasion in Antioch California. Utilizing bonds from the State, ground was broken on the construction building the new home for Rocketship Charter School. It was all smiles as Mayor Sean Wright and Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Richard Pagono led the brigade of gold shovels celebrating the new campus set to open this fall.

Supporters of Rocketship, who specializes in taking kids from low income households and turns them into top flight students in five years,  provides a welcome alternative to the often failing traditional  approach to education as practiced in the Golden State. There is so much excitement about Rocketship in Antioch that it already has a waiting list of families trying to get their children enrolled in the school.

Rocketship Public Schools, which has branches throughout California, Wisconsin, Tennessee, and Washington D.C., places its emphasis on students learning English, Math, and Science first.  Physical education and recess time are limited with their aggressive academic agenda.  Such a rigorous schedule often means students eating their lunch in the classroom and a school day which is a couple hours longer than traditional educational models.

Where does this extra time go?  The two additional hours spent at Rocketship are primarily used in computer labs where learning is done individually at the pace of how material is absorbed by each individual.  This blended learning time outside of the classroom is supplementary to what is done there.  As such licensed teachers are not supervising every aspect of the lab sessions.

This is one of the main criticisms that the California Teachers Association has for the Rocketship model of education. With them, results are often less important than the teaching methods utilized.  Even more important to the union is that most teachers at Rocketship do not belong to their group.  This point of contention provides a great deal of friction because Rocketship consistently outperforms its competition in public schools in producing students who are set up to be successful in the middle grades, high school, and beyond.

In addition to the emphasis on academics, Rocketship also puts pressure on parents to participate in their children’s education.  Volunteering is encouraged although it cannot be demanded by law.  As part of their jobs, teachers regularly visit their student’s homes to meet with families and build the bond between the kids and their schooling.

As such the Rocketship approach is not for everyone.  Reading, math, and the developing of critical thinking take priority over everything else.   As it is a public school where no one is forced to attend, this Charter School does not feel compelled to be like the rest of their competitors. Rocketship is the very essence of school choice that Antioch wants to offer to their community.

Fifteen miles down the road in Concord, things are much different.  The Mount Diablo Unified School District (MDUSD) with strong backing from the CTA, has opposed to Rocketship from the start.  When they applied with the District three years ago to put in a campus that catered to Hispanic kids from disadvantaged households, the MDUSD pulled out all the stops to prevent them from setting up shop.

They hired heavily academically qualified experts that tried to refute Rocketship’s high test scores as not representing real learning skills.  Criticism of special education, lack of arts, and developing well rounded individuals, were topics of discussion at public meeting at the District, County and State levels.

In fact in blocking Rocketship’s application with the County, school teachers protesting while wearing yellow shirts which read, “No Rocketship” This same group used the same tactics and attire while unsuccessfully blocking the charter school, when they gained approval from the State Board of Education to open a branch in Concord.

In 2016, barely 100 students were enrolled in Rocketship’s inaugural class.  The MDUSD, following their minimum legal responsibilities, placed them in a location that made it difficult for parents to delivery and pick up their children.  Using attorney’s to do their talking; the school district was accused of denying the new charter access to common playgrounds and cafeteria facilities that first year.

Despite these handicaps word of mouth spread in the Hispanic community. Increasing enrollment has transpired to where it is estimated over 350 students will attend Rocketship for the fall of 2018. They hope to soon reach the 500 level of enrolment and eventually build their own facility like Antioch has done

Apparently, some families prefer academic achievement for young kids as opposed to allegedly having more life skills, diversity, and transparency that the school district offers.

Outside of being non-union why is the Teacher’s union and their progressive allies opposing Rocketship and many others Charter’s so vigorously?   The basic reasons are:

  • The achievement levels are much higher and make school district and their teachers look foolish and less effective by comparison
  • Money is being diverted from the district to charters they don’t control. The CTA believes this weakens public education in general even though a similar amount is spent per capita for each student.
  • Concerned-involved parents are putting their kids in charters which dilutes the quality of families attending conventional schools
  • The performance of Rocketship is a mirage where teaching is focused on obtaining high test scores rather than real academic achievement

These same arguments are used to discredit almost all charter schools throughout the state. Curiously enough, advocates of school choice have never said their path of education is what everyone else should be following.  This is countered by anti school choice people saying that it is selfish for parents to want their own kids to attend better schools at the expense of others.  Such thinking pushes forth the notion that education funds belong to school districts rather than families who are served.

And so the battle rages on where the CTA continues to say “We are in it for the kids” when their conduct tells us a different story.  If everything was so great in California, why is the achievement level so low that 90% of public school students in the United States end up having better learning skills than in the land of high tech, diversity, political correctness, and restroom choice?

The contrast of experiences in Antioch and Concord are typical of what goes on throughout the entire state of California from San Diego to the suburbs of Sacramento. Fixing such a sad state of affairs will not be easy especially with a legislature that is a virtual captive and shill of the Teachers Union.

Next week why does everyone hate Betsy Devos and why is education a blue versus red issue.

About Stephen Frank

Stephen Frank is the publisher and editor of California Political News and Views. He speaks all over California and appears as a guest on several radio shows each week. He has also served as a guest host on radio talk shows. He is a fulltime political consultant.